#1 - John Strelecky is a #1 Bestselling inspirational author. His books (https://www.johnstrelecky.com/books/) have been translated into over forty-three languages and sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
They have won bestseller of the year awards seven times and collectively spent more than one thousand three hundred weeks on bestseller lists, including more than three hundred weeks in the #1 spot.
John’s entry into the world of writing began following a life changing experience when he was thirty-three years old. From that, he was inspired to sit down and tell the story shared in his first book - The Cafe on the Edge of the World.
Within a year after its release, word of mouth support from readers had spread that book across the globe - inspiring people on every continent, including Antarctica. It has been a #1 Bestseller in multiple countries.
John went on to write many other books including sequels to “The Cafe on the Edge of the World”, the “Big Five for Life” series of books, and more.
When he isn’t writing, John is often outdoors in his kayak, riding a surfboard, playing beach volleyball, or traveling the world with his family. Their longest adventure was a year-long backpacking trip to see animals in the wilds of Africa, Malaysia and Australia.
*Don't forget to hit subscribe so you never miss a new episode and please drop a review. It's the best way to support my growing podcast.
Subscribe or review on Apple Podcasts HERE
Subscribe or review on Spotify HERE
Resources Reference in the Episode:
Study on Intuition:
Book on Teaching Kids Confidence:
Big Five for Life Online Course:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnstrelecky/ (@johnstrelecky)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnStrelecky (@JohnStrelecky)
John explains his infamous hat [6:00]
The intuition of book recommendations [14:00]
Learning to trust your intuition [15:10]
Where lack of self- confidence comes from [24:30]
John explains one of life's greatest goals - being a participant and observer [30:45]
The importance of picking challenges in life [47:00]
John's path to becoming an author [49:00]
John explains how to create what he calls "Museum Days" [54:20]
How to discover and rediscover purpose [1:04:00]
"Sampling exposure" to awaken big ideas [1:20:30]
John describes the importance of "Non-Negotiables" [1:23:40]
John's concept of the "Cosmic Algorithm" [1:28:20]
John's explains "The Velcro Wall" and how it helps us know what to say yes to [1:37:00]
How the "Ascending Life Curve" completely shifts the way we think about aging [1:40:00]
Get in touch with me:
My website: www.richlifeguy.com
Nathan Hurd (00:00:00):
So John, if you could, before we get started, if you could share with our audience, how do you think today, how do you think about your professional life? What do you do? What businesses are you involved with and what is your professional mission?
John Strelecky (00:00:15):
Thank you very much. These days, I consider myself, more than anything else, an author, and that's what I do. I love to write. I love to take a blank piece of paper and just create something that is going to inspire the person who reads whatever comes up on there. I do get asked to speak. I kind of limit that now. I do probably four or five events around the world somewhere. So that's really who I am. And then I back that up by all the rest of the stuff that I to do, being an adventure. But in terms of my purpose, this goes into something that you and I have talked about offline a little bit, but at the end of the day, I believe my purpose on the planet is to create museum day moments for myself and for other people.
Nathan Hurd (00:00:55):
Yeah. That's beautiful. And I look forward to digging into that concept more deeply as we go. Before we go any further, can I ask, I've seen you give so many interviews and you're always wearing that same hat. I might be mistaken, but I think that's a Tilley hat.
John Strelecky (00:01:18):
It is. Yeah.
Nathan Hurd (00:01:20):
Could you tell us the story of where you got the hat? Where'd it come from and why do you wear it? What does it mean to you?
John Strelecky (00:01:25):
Yeah. So first of all, it is Tilley's. I don't get paid by Tilley to talk about Tilley, but I do talk about it and this is a really good example of why when you do something well, that the world responds positively to it. So I had backpacked on the world in my early thirties. That was one of the most major life changing things that I did. And during that trip, I had bought a hat on the streets of Beijing for about $2 and promptly went on to destroy it over the course of my travel. So I come back home. I need a hat. Walk into this outdoor outfitter store. They specialize in kayaks and really good high end gear and I said to the guy, "I need a new hat." He said, "Have you ever tried a Tilley?" Never even heard of a Tilley
John Strelecky (00:02:06):
So I try this on. So he has me try it on. It's super lightweight and I look in the inside of it and there's a something inside that says, "This floats, ties on, repels rain, blocks UV rays, has a lifetime warranty, comes with a four page owner's manual," and I'm like, "what the?" I think it even says, "A hundred percent then guaranteed for life." And so I said, "Well, it fits really good." I said, "How much is it?" He said, "It's $75." Now, again, I bought my last one for two bucks in the streets of Beijing and I was like, "75 bucks for a hat?" And he was like, "You try this hat and if you are in any way dissatisfied, you bring it back at any time. I will buy it back from you." I said, "All right."
John Strelecky (00:02:43):
So I bought this. Nate, I have taken this hat to the depths of the Amazon jungle where it rains. I live in Florida where you think it rains heavy. The Amazon, you can't even see when it's coming down, and this thing is like wearing an umbrella. I've smashed this into my backpack and taken it to Albania, Macedonia, all these crazy places. This is truly the most amazing hat ever. And the best thing, this is such a great customer service story. So after sure about four years after I bought the first one, a little rip started to develop on the top. So I called the customer service line. I said, "Listen, I hate to even ask this because I have totally gotten my monies worth out of this hat."
John Strelecky (00:03:19):
I said, "But there's a little rip on the top." And she said, "Sir, say no more. What size is it?" And I said, "How would I know that?" She said, "Well, look inside on the tags. I said, "Ma'am, the tags are worn out. I can't even see what they say anymore." And she said, "Don't worry about it." She said, "Send it back to us, but please send it back priority mail." So I go. I send it back priority mail. It was like nine bucks back then to ship a priority mail. And seven days after they receive it, I get a box in the mail. It is a brand new hat, perfect size for my head, the exact right type of hat, and I get a check for $9.
John Strelecky (00:03:56):
I am a fan for life. I've been a customer for life. Not only is it an amazing hat, but the service is amazing. So, to me, it's a great example of when you do something that you love and you do it really, really well, that the world will be your best marketing tool ever. People are always like, "Well, wait. If they keep replacing your hat, how is it any good?" Nate, I've probably bought 50 of these things for other people, for myself. When I go on media tour, I carry one that I wear when I'm just goofing off. I carry two that I wear on stage in case something happens. I'm a fan for life.
Nathan Hurd (00:04:24):
Wow. That is a great story. In business, it's amazing how far excellent customer service and devotion to the experience your customers have will go. This is a great example of a company that gives you a hat that's warranty for the life and creates such a raving fan kind of customer base that the word of mouth carries it farther than it probably could on its own or with all sorts of paid marketing.
John Strelecky (00:04:52):
Yeah. And I wear it to your question of, why do I wear it in interviews? Why do I wear it in podcasts like this? To me, life is a great big adventure. So I feel more like I'm in the midst of the adventure when I'm wearing it. If you and I hang out together and we go kayaking on a river down here, you're going to see me in it. If I'm out on the golf course, you'd see me in. If I'm out fishing, you'd see me in it. So it is just something that I have pretty much on my head almost all the time when I'm in some adventure.
Nathan Hurd (00:05:16):
Nice. Nice. Well, it fits your personality and what I understand about your interest extremely well. So thanks for sharing that. So let me ask you, I know that as an author who's been writing books for quite a long time, you get letters and feedback. And I know one of the great parts about putting work like this out there, at least in my experience, has been the feedback that you can get from the people who are impacted by your work. So can you share with us at the top here, do you have an example of a letter that you've received that was especially impactful to you, that really brought full circle all the work that you've put out into the world?
John Strelecky (00:06:05):
Yeah. Two things immediately come to mind. So one is an in-person experience I had with a gentleman, and the other is the letter that you just referenced. I'll tell the letter first, and then I'll talk about the other one. Yeah. Just very recently, we actually received this amazingly beautiful letter from a young 20 year old kid. She commented that she had gone off to university during the midst of the pandemic. She was so alone. She missed everything about her friends, her family. She was isolated and she just really lost her way. She said she had never felt a depression like she had felt during that experience. So she decided to pull the trigger and went back home to see her family. While she was there, she discovered, "The Cafe on the Edge of the World," in the library.
John Strelecky (00:06:48):
She literally put on a blindfold and was like, "I'm going to pick a book and read it," and she picked, "The Cafe on the Edge of the World," and read it. And she wrote about what it meant to her and how from the very first couple of pages, she started to feel lighter and there was a brightness about her. She went on to just talk about it and what it meant to her. It was a really beautiful letter. At the end, she said, "I just wanted to let you know that your book kind of saved me and just thank you for that," and I'm able to have this conversation now because of that.
John Strelecky (00:07:19):
I've been there. I've been in those positions where you feel very alone. You're trying to figure out life. You don't have the answers. It's sort of collapsing around you. And that is sort of the history of, "The Cafe on the Edge of the World". It's amazing how many people tell me, "It fell off the shelf in front of me," or, "My friend recommended it to me at just the right time." Books have an energy. If there's a book in your list, and I'd love to hear what that is for you, Nate, a book that has changed your life, my guess is that it found you at just the right time. I can't explain how it happens, but books have an energy of their own. Yeah, these are the type of things that they inspire me to no end.
John Strelecky (00:07:54):
The other one that I was talking about, you made me think of it was, I was up in Quebec, Montreal area doing a book signing and a guy waited for a long, long time because it was a very large crowd. At the very end, he came up and he had tears in his eyes right in front of me. And he said, "I want you to know that I'm here today because of this book," and he slid, "The Big Five for Life," across the table. And he said, "I was going to take my own life." He said, "My business was really bad and something happened. My business partner cheated and took all the money, and I looked at my family and I thought, 'How can I be such a disappointment to them'" And he said, "I was going to take my life." And he said, " My friend saw how low I was and they gave me this book," and he said, "I'm here today and I'm the father that I am today because I read that story."
John Strelecky (00:08:38):
There's just nothing like that as an author of inspirational books, to hear that that's the kind of impact a book can have. So yeah. Good stuff.
Nathan Hurd (00:08:46):
It's really good stuff. Yeah. That's incredible. It's amazing how deeply books can impact if they're written at the right moment for someone in the right way, or if they land in someone's lap, as you described. I'll tell you just one book that impacted me recently, which is a book that was written back in 1989. But right now, for whatever reason, and I think you're describing this, I appreciate it, which is that I think everyone feels alone or more alone, or has been more likely to feel that way in the recent year or two. I've certainly had my own version of that experience as well. It's not easy. And right now, here in Maryland, it's cold. It's snowy. It gets dark early.
Nathan Hurd (00:09:25):
So I've picked up a book called, "The Seat of The Soul," which was recommended to me by a good friend. And it has a lot to do with inner journey and being aware of your own emotions and the differences between decision making that's rooted in fear or rooted in love. For me, it's been a really a beautiful book and it's been really good timing. So anyway, I really appreciate you sharing that.
John Strelecky (00:09:57):
I think there's a really interesting point there, which is that's an intuitive call. When your friend says to you, "I think this is a great book for you," that's them using their own deep intuition because they probably have a library in their head of a thousand books or more that they've read and they could recommend anything, but in that moment, they're trusting their intuition. And you, once it's been referred to you, you're trusting your intuition either to read it the first time, or as you said in this instance, to go back to it. I think that's a hugely overlooked aspect of life, this trusting that inner guidance system that we have within us, and that applies to whether it's which book to read, which job to take, the way to parent if you have a particular calling to be a parent who stays at home more. If I was to recommend anything out of probably all the things that people ask me, "During your travels, John, like the rest of it, what's one of the most underused gifts that we have in front of us?" It's trusting that inner guidance system.
Nathan Hurd (00:10:56):
Yeah. That's incredible. I think it's a skill that takes cultivation.
John Strelecky (00:11:05):
Yeah. It's like a muscle I find. If you've ever had the experience where you're about to head out and you're like, "I'm forgetting something." Have you ever had that? You just know there's something there, but you don't know what is there, but you're forgetting something. And then sure enough, you get in the car, you drive. You're three miles down the road and you're like, "Ugh," and then it hits you, the thing you were supposed to bring with you, that package you were going to drop off or whatever is the thing. But I find that if you build that muscle... So great. So in that moment, you realize through my miles down the road, "Oh, that's right. My intuition was telling me something." The next time you are thinking about it and if you stop and pause for just a couple of seconds, you can't quite figure it out and then you get in the car and you're just about to back down the driveway and then you're like, "Oh, that's right. That package that I'm supposed to bring to somebody."
John Strelecky (00:11:55):
But the more you sort of tap into that, then eventually you realize it before you even leave the house and then you can get to the point where, as you're thinking about your day, your intuition says to you, "Don't forget the package." It's sort of like learning a language. Are you able to process the call before you need it? And I use it in sports all the time. I'm a very active athlete still to this day. I used to be a professional beach volleyball player. And it's amazing. The more as an adult, because I don't have the physical skills anymore that I used to have when I was in my twenties, but I can tap into this intuitive elements and I can see stuff before it's going to happen. It's an amazing gift to use in all aspects of life.
Nathan Hurd (00:12:35):
So do you find that you, at this point, are able to almost automatically trust your intuition without questioning it?
John Strelecky (00:12:43):
A hundred percent, so much so that there are times when I really, really want to override it because logically, it doesn't make any sense what the call is. I've done that before. It's funny because, I don't know why, but one of the places that really used to hit me, I used to be a golfer as well. I don't golf anymore, but I used to be a golfer. And I'd be looking at the shot, Nate, and I would say to myself, "That's a nine iron all day long." And my intuition would be like, "That's an eight," and I'd be like, "That's a nine. I'm 135 away. I know that's a nine, and I would feel it, Nate. And I'd hit the shot and of course, the club that I should have used was the one that my intuition was telling me to use.
John Strelecky (00:13:17):
This happened so frequently that I stopped overriding it and it was amazing how successful that was. So that's a very specific kind of not important example. But then when I started to do it in everyday life, whether it would be a business decision that yeah, I'd done all the research, I looked at all the analytics and I knew that the answer was yes, but my intuition was telling me, "It's not quite what you think it is," and I'd go back and I'd look again or I'd give it another day to think about it and I'd find the thing that my intuition was talking to you about. So yeah. I listen now with a hundred percent. Okay. If I'm getting that call, I don't need to understand why I'm getting the call that's worth listening to.
Nathan Hurd (00:13:57):
That sounds really interesting. Yeah. It's especially true now with so much distraction. That inner voice can be dimmed down by all- [crosstalk 00:14:08]
John Strelecky (00:14:07):
Nathan Hurd (00:14:08):
... of life. It is amazing how on point our bodies know. Our bodies, our minds, they know what we need more than- [crosstalk 00:14:20]
John Strelecky (00:14:20):
Yeah. Yeah. There's been tons of fascinating studies about this. I can't remember the exact details of this one, but I'll give you the essence of it. It was a computer simulation where you would look at cards coming up and the goal was to beat the dealer. So they would flip up a king and you would have to guess whether you thought your card was going to be higher or lower, but there was something in the system where eventually, you could figure out what the patterns were and you could figure it out. So they put sensors on people that would measure their heart rate, that would measure their different biometrics to determine whether they sort of had figured it out or not, and then they would let the person play the game and play the game.
John Strelecky (00:14:57):
I think it was after about the 300th turn of the cards, the person could explain why they knew how they had figured it out. They were actually winning at about the 200 mark. So even though they couldn't quite explain what they had figured out, they had explained something ahead of time. Their intuition, which was reflective of the biomarkers, had figured it out at the 60th card. And you're like, "Well, I can't even explain how that happens, but the point is that it's there," and the more you use that in life, it's just the easier life gets.
Nathan Hurd (00:15:30):
Oh, wow. Wow. All right. I'll try to find that study and maybe we'll link it to this video- [crosstalk 00:15:36]
John Strelecky (00:15:35):
Nathan Hurd (00:15:37):
... and audio. All right. Great. Well, listen, I think one of the things I admire so much about you is that you have cultivated this sense of trust in yourself. And I know you've been through, you've had many experiences throughout your life that have led you to you be more trusting and a lot of these decisions were big decisions where you made some really bold choices. So if we could maybe talk just a little bit about how this all came to be. So I understand you grew up in Illinois. Can you tell us a little bit about your youth and how that led you to your kind of your first professional aspiration?
John Strelecky (00:16:17):
Yeah. I did grow up outside of the Chicago area, so I can appreciate your Maryland comment about the cold because that is exactly why I fled. I was an athlete growing up as a kid. I was a good student. I did not have a ton of self confidence. I was a good athlete, but I could have been a great athlete had I have had the self confidence. So I sort of went through the experience of school. I didn't really understand school. I felt like I could miss half the days and understand just as much. So I was one of those that was probably a teacher's worst nightmare. "Well, why do we need of this? How is this relevant to the rest of my life?" And they hated that type of question.
John Strelecky (00:16:59):
But I just didn't get it. I didn't see where the train was heading. As part of that, I didn't see where my life was heading either. I wasn't one of those kids that knew I want to be A. Some kids know, "I want to be a doctor. I want to be a veterinarian. I want to be driver of a train," whatever. I didn't have that tremendous awareness. So I got to my senior year in high school and they said, "So where are you going? This is the time. You have to make a decision."
John Strelecky (00:17:26):
I didn't know what I wanted to be. And I saw the movie, "Top Gun," if you remember that from way back then. And I was like, "Okay, that looks pretty fricking awesome," to be competing against the best of the best. I loved that idea to be pushing yourself to be the best of the best. I wanted to be an adventurer. I was an adventurer in my core and I wanted to be an adventure. And I was like, "Okay. This flying thing sounds really good," because the little bit I knew about flying was if you eventually become an airline pilot, you get free airline tickets to go see the world. And if you structure your schedule the right way, you can work three days on, four days off, and then four days off, three days on again, which meant you just had eight days off, and I knew of no other career that you could do something like that and you made good money. So it seemed like a good call. I know anything else sits on and more appealing. So I decided that was going to be my path.
John Strelecky (00:18:13):
So crazily enough in terms of the configuration of the universe conspiring to assist, two weeks later, someone was coming to my little high school in the suburbs of Illinois talking about a school called Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach, Florida. Embry-Riddle is one of the top aviation universities in the world. So I was like, "What are the odds?" I just have this thought that that's what I want to do. This person is coming. I talked to this lady. She was awesome. She's like, "Yeah, have you ever been to Florida?" I was like, "Oh my God. Yeah. My family takes one vacation a year. We flee the cold in February. My parents take us out of school. We go to Florida." She's like, "Well, this is where you'll be in school, Florida." And I was like, "Okay. This sounds like nirvana."
John Strelecky (00:18:55):
So I did. I went down there. I had a fantastic career down there. I worked my ass off because I didn't have much money as a kid. I was working jobs while I was going to school. The deal at my university was if you took more than five classes, more than 15 credit hours, everything above that was free. So I literally would take 21 credit hours, which is almost a two times full time student because 12 credit hours is full time. I was taking 21 credit hours. I literally had a perpetual nightmare I'd walk into a final and have no idea what was on the test because I hadn't been to class, but I did it because I didn't have money.
John Strelecky (00:19:28):
So I worked through it all, ended up in this amazing internship with United Airlines in my second to last year there. Did all that. Nate, I was poised to be driving a Corvette with the top down, a pilot for an airline. I get my shot and I find out that I have a heart condition nobody's ever diagnosed before. Wouldn't be diagnosed until I was 32 because they don't give you this particular test as a pilot until you're 32. And in one day, I go from thinking, "I am on top of the world," to, "I am under the bottom of the bus. I have no clue what the heck I'm doing and I'm being run over by the bus."
Nathan Hurd (00:20:04):
Yeah. Wow. Well, I have a follow up question on that. And you made me think of something else that I'd love to hear your thoughts on. You know how, at least in my experience, it's easier for me to connect the dots when I look backwards in my life? I can see how they piece together, but it's very hard as you're living in that moment to see how things are connecting. And I wonder if you've ever thought of about or discovered or have a stronger sense of where that lack of self confidence early on came from. Have you ever looked back? Was there anything about your childhood that stuck out or anything like that? And how did you pivot ultimately to have the sort of courage to go out and aspire to become a fighter pilot? That's a big leap.
John Strelecky (00:21:01):
Yeah. I think most like lack of self confidence come from the way in which you are raised. It could be the environment, not necessarily something that your parents did or didn't do. It could be just you grew up in a big family and you got to figure things out on your own. Because there's so many kids, they don't have time necessarily to give you something that you, with the type of brain that you have or the type of emotional connections that you require. So I don't know. I was just missing something. I read a great book one time talking about education and they said, "If you help a kid learn to be confident in anything, they have the potential to become confident in everything." So find something that that kid in your classroom does particularly well. It can be something stupid like they can sit upside down on their head, whatever, but find something and praise that and reward that. That will give them the confidence to do other things and try other things.
John Strelecky (00:21:57):
It's a great question. Now as I'm thinking about it and listening to my own intuition, there is a crazy story in my family's past, which I think is tied to it. So depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, I will start the story and you can cut me off at any time. But I remember when I was six years old, we used to have a major family Christmas priority. My parents would invite like 60 relatives over to our house, and it would just become claustrophobic in there, but everybody loved hanging out for the holidays, et cetera. My grandmother, who was an immigrant to the United States, she used to make these desserts called [foreign language 00:22:34] which is a very traditional Polish dessert and it's loaded with Potter sugar. When you're a six year old kid, which I was at the time, if you eat this thing, you can inhale at the same time you take a bite and it creates this funky, weird sensation that is just perfect for a six year old.
John Strelecky (00:22:48):
So I love this dessert. We used to call my grandma every night. So after the Christmas party is over, we call grandma and she says, "Did you have a good time at the party?" And I said, "I loved it grandma and I'm so happy because there's so much [foreign language 00:23:01] left over." So I talked to my grandma. My sister talked to my grandma and then like 20 minutes later, my dad comes up to my room. He says, "Hey, you got to call grandma back and apologize." "Apologize? What do I need to apologize for?" And she said, "Well, you told her that nobody liked her [foreign language 00:23:17]." What? I don't remember that. "Well, you got call grandma back and apologize."
John Strelecky (00:23:23):
So I distinctly remember this, Nate, which is crazy, because I'm 50 some years old now, but I'm six years old. I call back my grandma. I said, "Nana, I'm sorry," and basically I learned that she was very deeply offended because I had said that nobody ate her [foreign language 00:23:36]. I don't know what the heck this means. I'm six years old. So Nate, 20 years later, I learned the back story of what this was. And I'll tell you how this may then ripple forward to my life. So her mother died when she was very, very young. They lived in tenement housing in Chicago. Her father passed away when she was five or six years old. So she's there in tenement housing, six or seven brothers and sisters live in this little two room place. You can hear through the walls. The wind is whistling through in Chicago. And her brothers and sisters gather and decide whether or not they should put her in an orphanage.
John Strelecky (00:24:11):
And she is, again, a little six or seven year old kid and she can hear through the walls and she can tell which brother and sister said, "We should put her in an orphanage," and which one said, "We should keep her." Her oldest brother who was only like 20, 21 at the time said, "Under no circumstances is a member of this family going to be put in an orphanage no matter what it takes," and she loved him with all her heart and would've done anything for that brother. Her whole life, Nate, she was desperately trying to prove that she was worth having around and it all tied back to that moment when she was six years old.
John Strelecky (00:24:48):
My father's gone now. He passed away earlier this year. But when I look back through that timeline, I see the same behavior in him. It was a desperate need to prove that he was worth having around, constantly trying to add value in any way, shape or form. And I think these things can be generational because whether you realize it or not, these behaviors that you're brought up in can be subtle things that you just accept as normal cause you don't know any different. So if I had to guess, I would guess that some of that was part of what was inside of me, that uncertainty, that fear that I wasn't sufficient enough going back generations to her experience as an immigrant child, which is crazy when you think about it. But I think probably most of us have stuff like that that is part of our behavioral traits that it just tied back to something way bigger than just us.
Nathan Hurd (00:25:38):
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. What a perception. I completely agree with you. I think a lot of times there is a moment or many moments, but certainly in many cases, there are certain periods in life which greatly influence how we view the world after that. You're right. As a father, John, and I know you're a father as well, I think about the insecurities that I carried with me throughout my life into adulthood and whether or not I heal those insecurities. I take the time to actually look back and try to figure out where they came from and heal them today. That really does influence how my kids perceive me and how insecure I am directly or indirectly around them. I think you're dead on, which is that we can inadvertently display these insecurities that can be passed on. So it's a such a good point.
John Strelecky (00:26:42):
Yeah. And as you said, I think one of the great goals of life is to be the participant as well as the observer to her own existence. And what I mean by that is if you can be in the midst of a conversation and sort of be aware of the way you're thinking, or if you can be in the midst of a situation, but be aware of the thoughts and the emotions and the sensations that you're feeling in that moment, that gives us a chance to correct the type of things that we don't think are getting us in the direction that we want to go in our life. And so, yeah, that's not a trait that I would want myself to have ongoing, this desperate need to constantly feel like I'm okay to have around.
John Strelecky (00:27:21):
You got to get to a point in life, in my opinion, in a way that you know that you're worth having around, that you're confident enough in what you contribute to the world or your family or the greater community at large, that you can just go through your life being the person that you want to be, whatever that is, and feel like, "Yeah, I'm adding enough value. I'm worth having around and I can walk into a room of people and not feel self conscious about who I am." So if you're able to be the observer, as well as the participant, you can identify when those things come up and you can say, "Well, where do they come from? And what can I change? Or what can I try to change, at least in the short term, to make me the kind of guy or the kind of woman that I want to be?" So the whole goal of that, of course, is to then live the life that I want to live. I can't be a really good adventurer without self confidence and...
John Strelecky (00:28:00):
I can't be a really good adventurer without self confidence. I remember one time I was in Peru. This is a crazy story, but I was in Peru, I was wandering around by myself, backpacking around and I came across this little village. And I was looking for good fishing spots, so I stopped at the rafting place and they said, "Well, it's not really the season for fishing, but we just got these new kayaks in. We're a rafting company, nobody here knows how to use a kayak. You want to take us down to the river?" Because I guess somewhere in the conversation I had mentioned that I was a kayaker, I'd seen them outside, I can't remember. I was like, "Sure, I'd love to."
John Strelecky (00:28:31):
So these guys jump in a raft, I jump in a kayak, we're shooting this river. I've never been on this river, Nate, and it's a class four, class five, and I don't speak very good Spanish at that time either. And so we're going down the river and they're like, "All right, you take the lead," and I'm like, "All right, I'll take the lead, but I've never been on this river," but I've been on enough rivers that I know how to watch the train, watch the rocks. And so we're approaching this thing and all of a sudden they're screaming at me and I don't understand what they're saying, and I finally realize I'm supposed to be on the right side of the river, because what's coming around the bend is going to be really, really bad.
John Strelecky (00:29:03):
But if I didn't have a degree of self confidence in that situation, I'd be dead right now. We wouldn't be having this conversation. And so in order to be the adventurer that I want to be and live the life that I want to be, it's critical that I allow myself to look into that soul and say, "What's not quite there and what do I need to do to get it there, to live the life I want to live?"
Nathan Hurd (00:29:23):
Oh, what a great story. And I know that only scratches the surface of your amazing adventures. Well, I'll tell you what, let's keep talking about how this all came to be. You were applying to be become a fighter pilot and you found out, near your aspirations of becoming a pilot, that you had a heart condition. Talk about, if you could... Because frankly, John, I mean, I've talked to you a few different times offline and here. It's very clear that health is a huge priority in your life and it allows you to be as adventurous as you are. How did that news of the heart condition affect you then, and how did you think through what your next steps were going to be and how you were going to continue to pursue a life that was inspired?
John Strelecky (00:30:19):
Yeah, I mean, it was devastating. Because yeah, I had started working when I was 12 years old, doing physical jobs, manual labor. I didn't really have a good sense of how to do well in terms of earning income, I just knew work hard. I'm not a huge guy physically, and so I was 12 years old, carrying concrete blocks that they were busting up the roadways and had to move the rock, doing other stuff that... It was just crummy, shitty jobs, but that's what I knew as a way to make money. And I'd invested every cent I had made in this dream of becoming a pilot, and so literally on the day that I received that letter...
John Strelecky (00:30:52):
Because basically, the condition I had at the time, it only affect one out of 100,000 people, so it's very rare, and it only matters if you want to be a pilot or an astronaut. Because what happens is if you're... So this is what they tell me, and this is why it was so debilitating when I heard it, Nate. So I learned the news, I said, "Well, I don't get this. I've been an athlete my whole life, how can this possibly be?" And they said, "Well, no, it's this thing where your heart sends an electrical impulse, it's not something that you would know or feel. It's not like a heart murmur or something where you'd feel palpitations." I said, "Yeah, but I've been an athlete my whole life. I've pushed myself physically, strenuously, I've never had a problem."
John Strelecky (00:31:27):
They said, "Well, no, what it is is if you were in an airplane and the airplane lost all its engines and you were in a free fall, if you were lying down, your heart would probably not be able to send the impulse in the same way that it needs to." And I looked at them, Nate, and I said, "Listen, if I'm the pilot and we've lost all the engines, what the hell would I be doing laying down in that moment? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." And they said, "You don't understand. Now that this is on your record, the insurance is never going to cover you for an airline. In the event that something ever happened and you were the guy at the controls, that airline would have a court case that they would have to battle." They just said, "For insurance reasons, they're never going to cover you. Your career is over."
Nathan Hurd (00:32:13):
Oh, my God.
John Strelecky (00:32:14):
And I was just... Yeah, I was like, "This doesn't make sense. I'm a good guy, I've done everything right. I've worked since I was 12 years old for this dream. This is just not fair." And for the next year after that, I was just massively depressed, honestly. It was just crushing because that was it, everything had been invested in that dream and that dream was dead, and it was dead not because of me, that's what bothered me so much. It wasn't that I screwed up, it wasn't that I did something wrong, it wasn't that I hurt somebody. It was just taken away from me because of something that I had no control over.
John Strelecky (00:32:49):
To your point, Nate, when you look back and you can connect the dots, if I had become a pilot, if I had become an airline pilot, I would not be the guy that I am today. I would not have ever written a book, I would never have the chance to travel the world, speaking to people and meeting people. I would never have had that guy stand in front of me and talk about the big five for life and the fact that he had decided to not end his life. He had decided to be the father that he was, and to still be there with his kids because of that book. None of those moments would've ever happened. And I will tell you, Nate, I would not trade this reality a thousand times over for the reality of being a pilot.
John Strelecky (00:33:28):
So for whatever reason, the universe had something different in mind for me. And I do believe that there is something bigger in play than just you're born, you live your 28,900 days, and you die. I don't think that's it. I think that there's definitely a bigger... In The Cafe on the Edge of the World, the first question there, why are you here? I think there's definitely something bigger at play, and for whatever reason, I went through that experience to prepare me for something else, but my destiny was not to be a commercial airline pilot. It was not to be a military fighter pilot.
Nathan Hurd (00:33:58):
Wow. Wow, and the fact that you were just able to keep moving forward. In fact, I believe after that you ended up going to business school, if I'm not mistaken.
John Strelecky (00:34:11):
Nathan Hurd (00:34:11):
Is that right? Could you tell and share with us what was that application experience like? How did you decide originally to apply, and then what happened? I know we talked offline and you had mentioned a letter you wrote, and I'd love to...
John Strelecky (00:34:32):
The letter, yeah. Yeah, so I found out and found out that that dream was never going to happen. And like I said, for about a year, I was just in a fog. I was just incredibly depressed. I couldn't figure out what I was going to do, had no concept of what my future was going to be. And then I decided that I was going to be a teacher, because I thought if I'm a teacher, at least I have my summers off. I was working full time at this just crappy job at a university doing accounting work. In addition to my aviation training, I had a backup degree in business because I had some crazy thought in my head happen earlier when I was a freshman in college. I was playing basketball and a guy hit me with his elbow on the eye, on the top of my eye and it cut it pretty good.
John Strelecky (00:35:21):
And I was like, "Wow, if something ever happens to me, I better have a backup plan," and so I got a second degree in business. So thank God, because here I had a degree that I could actually use, because if my only degree had been in aviation, then I really would've been sunk.
Nathan Hurd (00:35:35):
I guess those 21 credit hours
John Strelecky (00:35:38):
Yeah, yeah, that's what those 21 credit hours will do for you. And so I just applied in the paper, got this crummy accounting job at this university, it was a horrible job. I worked in the basement, my life was miserable. And I was shooting hoops on the driveway at my parents' house one day and my neighbor came out, and he was president of a small little savings and loan. And he said, "What are you going to do?" And he had known me since I was a little kid.
John Strelecky (00:36:01):
And I said, "I have no idea," and he said, "You should think about going back to business school." And I was like, "Man, I can't imagine going back to school." I was a really good student, I worked super hard, I got great grades, but school was just not my thing. And he's like, "I really think that's what you should do." And honestly, Nate, I didn't even know what that meant. I didn't know why you would go to get an MBA, but I was like, "All right." I trusted this guy, he had good advice and so I was like, "All right, maybe." So I took the GMAT, I did really good on that and then I only applied to one school. I applied to Northwestern University because that's where I was working as a crummy little accountant.
John Strelecky (00:36:38):
And I promptly applied, I got the letter back saying that you were not accepted. But it said in the letter that, "If you feel you've been inappropriately rejected, you can call us, we'll tell you what it is." So I called and the person said, "Well, we don't think you have enough practical work experience to be part of the MBA program, because we're a program that it's really critical that all the students have something to offer the other students."
John Strelecky (00:37:08):
So Nate, I had that conversation. Now you have to keep in mind what my year had been up to that point, right? I mean, the dream had been taken away, I'm working at this crappy job, my life is horrible. And so they said, "But if you think we were wrong, you can write a letter to the university." So I wrote this letter to the university, and this was the biggest F-U letter that has probably ever been written in the history of F- U letters. I literally think it started with, "Oh, so you don't think I have enough practical work experience, right?" And then it went on to talk about, "Have you ever flown an airplane with people's lives at stake? Have you ever flown an airplane where there was ice over the windshield, you had to fly it sideways down the runway in a Chicago winter so that you could land the plane?"
John Strelecky (00:37:50):
It just went on and on and on, right? "Did you start working when you were 12 years old?" It was not a good letter, but I had just reached that point where I just lost it. I just couldn't believe there was just one more thing going against me, you know? Because I had the grades, I had the GMAT score. I did have the practical work experience, but they didn't know anything about being a pilot. And so I sent it never, ever, ever expecting to hear anything back, but I guess to some degree it was cathartic. And so then I start focusing on trying to become a teacher. I take classes, I'm working full time. Six months later, I get a letter in the mail saying, "You've been accepted into the evening program for Northwestern University's MBA program, you're in for the fall."
John Strelecky (00:38:38):
So I show up to my first class, and I walk in the classroom and there's a whole bunch of students there and they're talking about being number one. And despite the few years when Northwestern had a somewhat decent football team, Northwestern is not number one in anything sports related, so I knew it was not that. And I was like, "What are we number one at?" And they're like, "Number one [inaudible 00:39:02]." They open up, I think it was Business Week. So Business Week and these other magazines will rate the top business programs in the world, and so Northwestern was the number one ranked business program in the country. Nate, I'd only applied to one school. I only applied to there because I worked there. I didn't even know they rated at the program.
John Strelecky (00:39:18):
And so I really do think that where the universe yanked the carpet underneath me in terms of the pilot dream, this was like, "Okay, clueless guy, here's a present for you on a silver platter, because this is going to change your life." And it did, because you get an MBA from Northwestern University or any of the top, top programs, and all of a sudden it opens doors into careers and opportunities that never would've been there for me had that not been the case. So yeah, I had one yanked out from underneath me, but this was the gift on the silver platter.
Nathan Hurd (00:39:49):
I want to continue that thought, and I just wanted to comment that you made me think of something which is an experience I've had myself, which is sometimes the amount of pressure that we find ourselves under, psychologically and through our experiences, becomes so immense and it's so painful that it's the final straw and everything inside just explodes to reject the reality of the circumstances. The irony, as I listen to your story, of the reason that they gave you, which was you didn't have enough practical experience. You had tremendous practical experience, as you outlined in the letter, but also you were employed by that university, it's just striking. And just out of curiosity, have you ever found out what it was about that letter that hit a nerve?
John Strelecky (00:40:45):
No, and it's funny, at the time that it happened I just was so grateful that I was... I don't even think I realized at that time what that gift was going to be coming back to me, and I probably didn't realize it until I'd been out five years after getting the degree. But yeah, to this day, one of my regrets is that I did not have the wherewithal to go back and find who that person was and to say thank you. And yeah, just having this conversation with you, it makes me think I should contact the university and see if... Because maybe that person is still there, maybe they were a 28, 29 year old, like I was at the time, and maybe they're still there.
John Strelecky (00:41:26):
And they should know, they should know how that completely changed my life on a personal basis, and then the net impact of that, of course, is the millions of people out there who have read the books that have had a positive experience with that. This man or woman is a part of that story. Had they not have had the courage to see through the pain and the stupidity of the content of the letter, to see that this was a guy who we should have in the program, I really don't know where my life would've gone without that. So yeah, they deserve a huge props for that.
Nathan Hurd (00:41:55):
Well it strikes me, at least listening to the story, not having read the letter, but it strikes me as the letter of a fighter. And I think the admirable quality is to... My just two second experiences, I remember being told early on in my career that I did not have the talent and the skills for a particular job. And it was partly because I was young and I was irresponsible and not as professional as I probably should have been, and I remember being told this and in that moment, everything inside me rejected that notion. And all of a sudden I just started listing off all the reasons, clearly and crisply, that I felt I was appropriate for this job. And I ended up going on to have a pretty successful career. So anyway, I relate, I relate very much.
John Strelecky (00:42:49):
Well, I think that there's times in our lives where this is that defining moment. So, thinking back to what we've talked about and who I was prior to that, I did not have that tremendous amount of self confidence. And actually, to some degree, writing a letter like that requires a great deal of self confidence, because if you were in the position where you're just like, "I'm not worthy. You know what? They're right," you can't sit down and write that letter. And so in the book that I wrote called Life Safari, I talk about a theory that I have on life, and it's told through this amazing character called Mama Gombe, this incredibly wise African woman. And she says, "Maybe life is prior to being born, you look at the big board of options and you pick the challenges that you think will most challenge you in life, the things that you would love to try and overcome. Because in that moment, you're in your spirit form and you realize life is infinite and it's just a game."
John Strelecky (00:43:44):
And so you pick these challenges, like lack of self-confidence or challenging childhood or whatever the things are, and then you're born into the physical form. And part of the goal of life is to try and remember what those challenges were that you picked, because they're going to be around you all the time. Identify what they are and to get beyond them. And that when you get beyond them, that is when you really have the chance to grow. And so you, in that moment, in that meeting where someone says to you, "No, I don't think you're ready," that was your defining moment. It's like the moment in the movie where you hear the... Is the character going to rise to the challenge? And you did. And in my case, writing a letter, I did. And it's interesting, because those can be the defining moments in life, where you suddenly turn the corner and all of a sudden there are possibilities in front of you that never would've been there without that moment.
Nathan Hurd (00:44:33):
Yeah, I love that. I see that and appreciate that so much about the way that you live your life. And I think it's completely true that our greatest challenges, our greatest adversities, our greatest adversaries are our greatest teachers, and they're the things that can help to sculpt who we become the most. So, I couldn't agree more.
Nathan Hurd (00:44:59):
Well, I actually would love to hear more about who you've become today, now that we've... I think this has been really, really interesting, so thank you so much for taking us through how things came to be. So how did you ultimately become an author? What was the transition from where you were, and as I understand it, you made a big decision there. So take us through that decision making process and then how you became an author?
John Strelecky (00:45:28):
Yeah, so after getting my MBA from Kellogg, it just opened up an unbelievable list of opportunities for me to do, and what I ended up doing was becoming a consultant. And so I would travel the country and they would send me into an industry I knew nothing about and say, "Okay, so it's Thursday night, we're bringing you into this industry. Monday morning we need you to present to the board of directors, you need to be an expert on corrugated boxes or farm equipment or whatever." And this was something I was particularly good at, because the way my brain works is I could connect the dots on things and say, "Oh, well look. Interestingly, because you guys are doing it this way, but in the grocery industry, they do it this way. And if you did it more like radio here and... What would your world look like if..."
John Strelecky (00:46:09):
And so I was really good at getting smart about something fast, and I was really good about coming up with creative potential opportunities. And so I was great at it, my firm was a great firm, they treated us very, very well. But after five years of that, I was looking at people that were 10 years older than me and I was saying, "If I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm going to be that guy. And is that the guy that I want to be?" And it was pretty obvious to me that the answer to that was no. I just had this calling, Nate. I had this inner drive that I wanted to go do something more adventurous. I wanted to see the world. And so in my early thirties, I decided to do that and left everything behind. Left the career, rented out the house, sold almost everything I owned, went and backpacked around the world for a year.
John Strelecky (00:46:56):
And when you do that when you're 18, people are like, "Oh, great job, great. You're going to love that, it'll change your life. Good idea." When you do that after you're finished with your college degree, they're like, "Fantastic, take a gap year, man. You definitely want to do that before you start working, you're going to be working your whole life. Go do that." When you do it when you're 32 and you're in sort of the high point of your career, people will say, "Are you flipping nuts? That's crazy. What are you thinking? You should be, at this point, having a family." So the world is not so encouraging at 32 to go do something like that, but did it anyway and it was a life changing experience. It was everything that I had dreamed about, to travel to these exotic places and to meet people and see their life and see their worlds.
John Strelecky (00:47:38):
It was life changing. When you're in Vietnam and you're walking through the ruins in Vietnam, and there's a band of four people playing these handmade string instruments and you're looking at them, and they all only have one hand or one leg, and it's because their hands or legs were blown off with a landmine, these are things that change you forever. You don't look at your life, you don't look at the luxuries you have, the way in which you live the same way. I remember I was in, I think it was in Cambodia, and this little girl was about seven years old and she's cutting pineapples and trying to sell them to tourists. This kid's using a blade that I would be afraid to use and she's like... Right? And I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, why isn't this kid in school?"
John Strelecky (00:48:20):
And she's a great saleswoman. She's making the pitch and delivering the product. I'm like, "This kid, she'd be a CEO of a company if she was raised in America with that kind of drive, that kind of perseverance, that kind of spirit. And here she is just trying to make it, to have enough money to give her family, and she's not even going to school." So this changed my life completely, my perception of the world and what was out there. I came back from that experience and had a 21 day stream of conscious experience where the story of The Cafe on the Edge of the World flowed through me. It was very much trusting your instincts, I had never written anything before of length. I had no dramatic life plan to be an author, but something inside of me, my intuition said, "Sit down and start typing," and I did for 21 days.
John Strelecky (00:49:06):
And what is in The Cafe on the Edge of the World is almost word for word what was on those pages at the end of the 21 days. So I would love to tell you that there was a grand master plan, Nate, but to the contrary, it was one of those where you can't start on the second great adventure until you're willing to step into the unknown of the first great adventure. And so the first great adventure from you is to go backpack around the world. The second great adventure of becoming an author was something that as much chose me as I chose it.
Nathan Hurd (00:49:33):
So I think it will be very instructive for people listening and watching this to understand what went into that big decision, because you're right. I mean, you said it perfectly, that sometimes society or your family or your friends or your social network or the culture, it gives us pressure that we shouldn't do something that maybe our heart feels we should. And I think this big decision is instructive for any big decision. I mean, even should I retire or not, or should I start a business, or you name it. So what was that big decision like? How did you actually get to the point where you pulled the trigger?
John Strelecky (00:50:21):
Yeah, so let me jump to one of the topics that I opened with, which is what is my purpose this museum day. So this plays into it, although I didn't realize it until years later. But in the Big Five for Life book, one of the most commonly quoted back to me stories or aspects of that book is something called museum day, and the essence of museum day is this. Imagine if every moment of your life was recorded, everything you did, everything you said, all the places that you went, the ways you spent your time. And then towards the end of your life, a museum was built to honor you, only the museum would show your life exactly how you lived it. And so if 80% of your time was spent at a job that you didn't like or on things that didn't bring you joy, then that would be 80% of your museum.
John Strelecky (00:51:04):
And there'd be kiosks and videos and big dioramas and all kinds of stuff showing you spending your time on these things that you didn't really enjoy. If you loved spending time with your family or being an adventurer, whatever, but you only spent 2% of your time on those loves, then only 2% of your museum would be dedicated towards that. Maybe just a few pictures near the exit door. And so, imagine what it would be like to walk your museum at the end of your life. What would you see? How would you feel? What would that experience be like for you? And the major a-ha that I had, the huge epiphany, was imagine if heaven or the afterlife, or however you perceive the way life works, but imagine if that is actually you being the tour guide for your own museum for all of eternity.
John Strelecky (00:51:55):
And although I didn't have the clarity of that in my... Because I wrote that in the Big Five for Life book, which was a couple years after the trip. Somehow inside of me, Nate, that awareness was there. And when I was looking at my life and I was looking at that person 10 years older than me in that job, in that lifestyle, that was not the museum that I wanted, and it definitely wasn't the museum that I wanted to be reliving every single day as the tour guide for my own museum. And so I think it was a combination of getting older, I think it was a combination of having that person there as a guide, a metric to say, "That's what it would look like in 10 years." And I don't know, I just had gotten to the point where I couldn't do it anymore and I was determined to pull the trigger.
John Strelecky (00:52:40):
Now, I will tell you that sometimes the universe conspires to assist. And so I had made a decision that in October of that year I was done. I was going to quit, I was going to go backpack around the world. Leading up to that was 9/11. Following 9/11 was the dot com crash, right? Everything was falling to pieces, especially in the world of consulting. Because in consulting, when the rest of the economy falls into the tank, consulting is one of the first things that's cut, and so it didn't matter how much value we were adding. And so my firm said, "We're looking for people to go on furlough," people who were willing to take... Because they thought this was going to only last three or four months. So they said, "Who's willing to go on furlough?" You go on the beach, they call it in consulting.
John Strelecky (00:53:23):
You go on the beach and you take some time off. You can be at home, we'll give you partial pay, full benefits, but you're going to be on the beach. And I had not been on the beach in five years, I had never had a break. And so I was like, "Sign me up. I'll sign up for furlough." And they were like, "Nope, can't do it, because the client you're on is a great client. They love you, they love the work that you're doing, and so nope, not you." And I was like, "Wait, didn't you guys ask for volunteers? Am I missing the definition of volunteering?" "Nope, not you." So three months later, next round of the economy does not recover, if you remember. Things did not bounce back, we're falling farther behind. So three, four months later, "We need another round of volunteers." I'm standing on a chair, I'm waving with both hands, take me.
John Strelecky (00:54:07):
"Nope, client loves you, we're not doing it." So, okay, fine. In the interim, they announced what was called... It's was like the president's... I can't remember, it's been so many years, but it was like the president's contest or something, where anybody in the firm could submit an idea that was going to be hugely beneficial for the firm. And if you won, you got a six week sabbatical to work on this idea and then you would come back and you'd present it to the board of directors in the firm. And so I submitted this idea I had for a client intervention tool, where it was this same concept that I used. Okay, Nate, you're in the grocery business, but what if you had to operate your business like a radio station? What would your revenue streams look like? And I created this whole model for it, and so I submitted this idea.
John Strelecky (00:54:50):
And so I find out that I won. Out of 1100 people, they liked my idea the best. They said, "You've got it. Now we're putting you on sabbatical, we're pulling you off the client, we want you to work on this idea." Great. I'm two and a half weeks into my sabbatical working on this idea, it's actually my bachelor party weekend. I'm on the golf course with my buddies and I get a phone call from the head of HR and they said, "Hey John, we wanted to let you know that we're going through a third round of furloughs. Anybody who is not currently being paid by a client, we're forcing on furlough." And I was like, "Let me get this straight. After volunteering twice and you guys not letting me go, I now have come up with the one idea out of 1100 people that we think might be able to turn the ship in the direction that we want to go, and you're forcing me on furlough?" I was like, "This is the Dilbert cartoon of all Dilbert cartoons. Okay, sounds good." I said, "What does this mean?" They said, "Well, you're being forced on furlough. You get partial pay, full benefits, and just hang out." And this was February, and my plan was to retire, to call it quits in October. And so here I was, many, many months ahead of schedule and the universe conspired and I was like, "I'm going to go travel." And so I grabbed a backpack and went off and went for a year to see the world. Now I think the big takeaway for that story is the importance of knowing where you think you want to be going and having the line drawn in the sand.
John Strelecky (00:56:00):
Knowing where you think you want to be going and having the line drawn in the sand. Had I had not had the awareness, Nate, that I wanted to go do that I think that moment would've thrown me for a massive loop. I had so many friends who went through that experience and they had dreams too. They wanted to go build homes for the homeless in Guatemala. They wanted to start a different career but they got so afraid when they were put on furlough, that all they did was up upgrade their resume and send it out to 100 people and spend every day worrying about it. And I saw them when I came back from my year of traveling abroad and I was like, "Well, how did you spend your time?" They didn't do anything. So you got to have a plan, and when the universe throws the high-speed rail pass, it's important to have the plan because you're going to jump on the high-speed rail pass and get there even faster than you thought you would go, which was certainly the case in my instance.
Nathan Hurd (00:56:51):
That's amazing. Yeah. I'd love to hear that in your story, how the dots ultimately connected and how the universe conspired, you said. When you were talking about the concept of museum day, that is such a powerful concept. I men, I have read many of your books and I've got, you can see, all the notes. And so I've been thinking about this, especially in that context recently and you're right. It is so powerful to imagine what your life would be like, if you reflected on it in terms of the percentage of time you spent on doing the things that supposedly matter to you most. And I actually, I think I may have written you this on email offline but I watched this movie, this Pixar movie, Soul, with my kids recently.
Nathan Hurd (00:57:36):
It's a cool movie and it's about this ... The main character has a chance to observe his life kind of played forward. And it's very unnerving, what he sees once he starts to realize how his life had been playing out, how the moments of his life had been spent. So let me ask you, when you came back and you wrote this book, you had this experience, what then happened to put it out into the world? As I understand once you published it just kind of took off.
John Strelecky (00:58:12):
Yeah. So it's interesting as you said before, looking back through the timeline and understanding why part of your experiences were what they were. So why did I start working when I was 12 years old and have of that part of my experience? Because I developed a phenomenal work ethic. I would outwork everybody. What I didn't understand at the time was applying that energy in the right directions all the time. I was given opportunities to do things that would've been higher salary, higher income, even when I was younger and I turned them down because I didn't have that confidence, but I had to work ethic. So that was the reason that that part of the dot, part of the story was there.
John Strelecky (00:58:46):
Why the business school part? Because in that industry, I had to learn how to get super smart about things in days. I had to become an expert in days, and then I had to be able to analyze contracts, and I had to understand spreadsheets. I had to look at the business model behind it. I knew some of that as a young entrepreneur, but I didn't understand it anywhere near to the depth that I would need it as I was about to figure out as an author. Why do most artists not make it? They don't make it because they don't have the side benefit of understanding the business of the art, and I had that. I was not just an author. I was a business person who also was an author, and so when it came time for contracts, I knew what I was doing. When it came time for negotiating deals, I knew what I was doing. And so it was a wonderful blend of the creative side of my brain with the left side of my brain which could understand and all of those things.
John Strelecky (00:59:40):
And so yeah, within the first year, I think the copies had sold in 28 countries. I got picked up by a literary agent. It was on its first best-seller list within a year after that. I can't say it was all bells and whistles. I've been rejected easily by over 200 publishers around the world because you know the books in 43 languages, so you deal with publishers around the world. At least 200 have said, no.
John Strelecky (01:00:03):
Probably my funniest story associated with that is the book was actually on the best seller list and somebody who had not even gotten around to reading the letter and reading the manuscript for the book sent me a rejection letter saying, "I really don't think this will ever work." And it was already on the best-seller list. They even didn't know that. And so yeah it was just a crazy, moving train at that point where it was all signs were green, that there was something there.
John Strelecky (01:00:32):
People from around the world were buying at the horrible website that I had developed because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. And we were getting amazing ... At the time, it was just me. I was getting amazing responses. I was getting emails and letters from people saying how much it had changed their life. And so yeah, at that point, all indications were green, which is the sign from the universe, "Keep moving. There's flow there, follow that flow."
Nathan Hurd (01:00:55):
All right. So let's talk about the main concept from that book, which is really so something I think you have just ... You live a life that's defined by purpose from what I can perceive and it's a beautiful lesson that we all, I think, search for is what is our purpose at any given stage? What is the PFE conceptually and where did this come from? And how has that ... How should the audience, people listening to this think about PFE?
John Strelecky (01:01:28):
Yeah. So this is not something I was ever exposed to throughout my entire education, which is kind of weird when you think about it, because you learn amazing stuff. You learn about reading, writing history, all the rest of that. But at no point in my life, did anybody ever ask me, "What is your purpose?" And so when the story of The Cafe on the Edge of the World, the guy wanders into this very mystical, unusual cafe. And then when he turns over the menu, there's three questions. Why are you here? Do you fear death? And are you fulfilled? And that question, "Why are you here?" Is probably one of the most important questions to allow ourselves to ask because when you think, what is the type of museum that I want to create from myself? What are the types of moments that I would love to relive again and again, not only in my museum, if that's the way it actually works, but in my memories, in my thoughts, in my emotional reaction to the story that I've created for myself.
John Strelecky (01:02:19):
And that comes down to, "Well, why are you here? What is your purpose on the planet?" For somebody that might be, "I want to be the most amazing parents ever. I want to love my kids. I want them to know every single day that they're safe, that they're loved. I want to build that confidence in them. I want to create that springboard for them to have an amazing life." Somebody else may say, "I want be the designer of the most spectacular race cars in the world. I want to create new designs. I want to see those cars race around that track. I want to see championship trophies." Someone else may say, "I want to be an adventure who visits 200 countries before I die." There's an infinite of opportunities, but it comes down to that question. Why are you here? And what is your purpose? And in the book I call it, what is your purpose for existing? Your PFE.
John Strelecky (01:03:07):
And when you have that, when you've identified that it's like knowing where the X is on the treasure map. It gives you ... It's your north star. It's what guides you and enables you to move in the direction that you want to go. Now, I will say that it comes with a price because once you know what it is, you can't go through your everyday life and just live the way you were living before, because it's uncomfortable. It's like, "I don't know if you ... There's a very, very basic example but I'll use it anyway. So if you had never tasted coffee before and you tasted coffee for the first time and you absolutely loved it and it was perfect for everything that you loved about taste buds. There you go. And then someone said to you, "You can never have coffee again."
John Strelecky (01:03:52):
That would be painful and you'd be thinking about it. Every time you saw someone else have coffee, it would be hurting you. It would be painful. That's a very basic and probably not a very good, but hopefully good enough, example of what it's like when you have tasted your purpose and then you aren't living your purpose, it's painful. And when you see other people living a related purpose or living their purpose and you know, inside your heart, that you could be living your purpose too, it's painful. And so this does not come without a price, this awareness of why am I here?
Nathan Hurd (01:04:28):
From your perspective, does purpose change over time? And how often should somebody reevaluate? I can think that the perspective I had on my life 20 years ago and what I thought I wanted then has changed. And I know that my parents, or people that have had a career and are now at a different stage, their sense of purpose is very likely different. How do you think about purpose changing over time and reevaluating purpose and that sort of thing?
John Strelecky (01:05:06):
My guess is because I many, many years ago, over a decade ago, people would read The Big Five for Life book or The Cafe on the Edge of the World and they would say, "Can you help me? Can you help me figure it out?" Because The Big Five for Life are what are the five things that you most want to do, see or experience in your lifetime before you die? And they are sort of ... If you think of your purpose as the umbrella, these are the things that are underneath that umbrella. Or better analogy is to your purpose is this river. So I'm on the make-a-difference river, and what are the ports of call that you want to stop at along the way? "Oh, I want to build homes for the homeless. Oh, I want to be in a using accountant. Oh, I want to be a spectacular parent."
John Strelecky (01:05:37):
So I firmly believe that your purpose is something that is deep within you. And it's probably been there since you were a kid. It's just kind of the way that you're wired or the choices that you have made about the kind of person that you want to be. The ways in which that manifests a hundred percent, I believe that changes over time. As you increase what you are capable of, as you increase the resources that you have at your disposal, the size of the way or the type of way in which you want to fulfill your purpose absolutely can change over time. No doubt about it. Yeah.
Nathan Hurd (01:06:13):
So the purpose, the underlying purpose is tends to stay consistent. It's within you, but the way it actually manifests, depending on the circumstances of your life and the priorities, the surroundings the people can change. Is that what I'm hearing?
John Strelecky (01:06:29):
Yeah. As, as a really basic example. So my purpose at this point is to create museum-day moments for myself and for others. And I have tweaked that a little bit because when I first identified it and sort of mapped it out, it was to create ... It was more along the lines of happy moments, so I wanted to create happy moments for myself and for others. And what I realized Nate was that ... I mean, I definitely like creating those moments. That's a big part of what I try and create, but it's not always about something that's happy. So I have a friend whose father just passed away recently. Being there for him in that moment is not about creating a happy moment. It's about being there as a friend, it's about being a foundational rock so that if he's struggling that I can be there as the strong entity in that moment. Right?
John Strelecky (01:07:14):
So it's not, I realize it, wasn't just about happy moments. And so the museum-day moments or moments that I would be proud to walk for the rest of my life in any sort of emotional spectrum that I was there for somebody else. If you asked, my father has passed away but if you asked my mom, what was John like as a little kid? She'd say, "He was the kid who looked out for other kids." If there was a kid that was hurt, that was injured. If there was somebody being bullied, he would be the one trying to help that kid. I didn't have the confidence to stand up to the bully but I'd be the one comforting the kid who had been bullied. And so I think that probably if you were to look over your life, I'd love to hear your take on this, that there are parts of who you are now that have blossomed because you have the self-awareness that was there when you were five. I mean, does that ring true?
Nathan Hurd (01:08:03):
It does. I remember when I was young, you're making me think about, we used to have these really big trees in the neighborhood where I lived and I really liked climbing trees at a certain age when I was a child. And I would climb to the branch so high where the tree was swaying, and of course my parents, when they would see me do this would be utterly fearful. But the other kids in the neighborhood were inspired. I remember kids that were scared to climb trees or that were scared to climb higher, would see this and, and look at this as an inspiration. And the same thing was true for riding bikes over jumps and running fast through the yard or leaping fences, and all the things we did as when I was young, a lot of was tied back to my desire to inspire other people through conquering my own fears.
Nathan Hurd (01:09:03):
And I can tell you that, that's taken many different shapes over the years but I think you're completely right. That I can imagine a purpose like that lasting forever, really, because even when ... It's interesting because some of the research I've read about longevity and I don't know if you have any thoughts. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, but people that are living to kind of the oldest a human can live. And high degrees of centenarians, populations out in the world, oftentimes one of the ingredients, there is a sense of purpose, the community, their families nurture a sense of purpose and they tend to have one. So yeah, that very much resonates with me.
John Strelecky (01:09:51):
I think that makes perfect sense, and this makes even more sense when we allow ourselves to taste what it feels like to be living our purpose. And like I said, it can be painful on the other side because when you're not living it, then it feels out of sorts. It feels uncomfortable, but I've definitely gone through phases in my life where I was like, "Ah, damn it! Monday." I mean, there was just nothing exciting about that at all. I distinctly remember working at jobs where I would look at the clock on a Monday morning and I would imagine that I had the ability to fast forward time to Friday at 5:00 PM, which when you think about that, that is insane. I was willing to fast or through five sevenths of my life every single week because I hated the job that I was at. I hated the life that I was living.
John Strelecky (01:10:46):
So if that's the way you're waking up on a Monday morning and you add in the fact that you're getting older and there's more physical creaks and pains and your eyesight's going, I can see where it's pretty easy to get less and less excited about waking up the next day. To the contrary, if you're doing something that you actually find great satisfaction, and that makes you feel very, very fulfilled inside and you have excitement about the next day. I can see why you'd want to stick around. And so I definitely think that our physiology is a reflection of our internal dialogue, our internal belief systems. And so if the internal belief system is saying, "Hey, I'd be all right leaving tomorrow." I have to believe that the physiology is responding in kind to that. Either just because it's doing what it's doing, or then our subsequent behaviors are facilitating that on an even ... We're speeding that up on an even faster basis.
Nathan Hurd (01:11:39):
Yeah, absolutely. All right. For everyone listening to this, let's say that you're at a point in your life where you're adrift of your purpose. You're not feeling at this moment. Maybe you were at one time and maybe you're not now. Maybe things have changed. Maybe you're at a different stage. Maybe you've become a parent. Maybe you've become a grandparent. Maybe you've just retired. Wherever you might be along that trajectory, you're not totally connected. How do you recommend people reconnect? Is it going back to those three questions, no matter what agent stage? Or what are your suggestions there?
John Strelecky (01:12:16):
Yeah, there's a couple of different things. I mean, there's lots of different avenues to get to the same destination. People will say, "Well, what did you do John?" Well, I left everything behind, quit my job and backpacked around the world for a year. I came back with a totally different perspective about life, my role in life, what my next set of years going to look like. And so if that calls to you, great. That might be an option that you would consider. Not everybody has that sort of bandwidth. That's not everybody's path also, and so I realized that. So let me give you some, some small steps and some medium steps. So the medium step would be work with someone who's an expert and can help you figure this out. I don't have a ton of resources available for people in the states for that.
John Strelecky (01:12:58):
There is an online experience that people can go through where over the course of a series of 13 or 14 exercises, you will get clear and clear about what are your big five for life and start to narrow in on this life that you want to live. For folks that are listening, who happen to live in Europe, there's a lot more in-person work that is available there, because I have a couple of companies over there where they do this. But that said, there are other great coaches out there who can help you get this sense of awareness. So that's more on the spectrum of, "I would like to get assistance with this." And as an athlete myself, I sometimes like to work with a coach because it's very hard to see the things that I'm doing wrong while I'm in the midst of trying to perfect them.
John Strelecky (01:13:40):
It's like trying to look in the mirror while you're giving yourself a haircut. You can't quite do it. It's just impossible. And so I like the fact that a good coach can accelerate my progress faster but that's not everybody. And that's not everybody where they're at. So here's a very simple set of techniques that anybody can use as a starting point. Number one, give yourself a block of time every single day and go out in nature and no distractions. So no cell phone, no podcast. And I love podcasts so I'm not saying don't listen to podcasts in general because I love them. But they're great to me when you want to be absorbing content, not when you want to be self-reflecting. So if it's time for self-reflection turn off all the distractions, go walk in nature because I find nature to be an incredible source of inspiration.
John Strelecky (01:14:24):
And just ask yourself that question, "Why am I here?" And it may not come to you in the first five minutes. It may not come to you in the first day. It may not come to you in the first week, but you're going to get flashes. You're going to get little instinctual moments. Write those down. The experience that I have people go through over the course of two days when they work with a coach is it's all about tapping into this intuition. You may get the color green and you don't know what the color green means, but you may get the color green five times. So start writing that down. You may get the flash of a movie that you had seen years ago that you can't quite remember what it was about, but you remember you liked it. Okay? Watch that.
John Strelecky (01:15:03):
Your intuition cannot talk to you in the same way that you and I are talking, Nate. It's not going to be able to say, "Hey buddy, you know what? Your purpose is actually to ..." But it is going to give you these clues. And if you start recognizing the clues and writing them down, you're going to start to find patterns. And in those patterns, you're going to start to find your big five for life. And in your big five for life, you can start to ask the question, "Why are these my big five for life?" And in the bottom of that answer, why, is actually your purpose. So I've just consolidated a two-day immense course done into 30 seconds. But that is the essence of it. So that's a good technique.
John Strelecky (01:15:38):
Another good technique is looking at life and saying, "Who's living my dream life? And why is that my dream life?" Do you like the fact that they have freedom to do what they want? And therefore freedom is something that you crave. Do you like the fact that they get to spend more time with their kids? Are they the coach of the Little League team? And you wish you were the coach of the Little League team. Are they doing a lot of interviews and you would like to be doing interviews? So why?
John Strelecky (01:16:03):
Well, maybe your life purpose is to share a piece of wisdom and you feel that you could be a pulpit for that piece of wisdom. So by looking at the world and saying, "Who's living my dream life, and why is that my dream life?" That can be incredibly guiding in terms of what your purpose is.
John Strelecky (01:16:18):
A great follow-up question to that is, "Well, what did they do to get there?" If you look at three people who are living your dream life and you get to know their backstory either through interviews they've done, books that they've written, YouTube interviews they've done, podcasts they've given. You can start to identify a path that can be your path.
John Strelecky (01:16:36):
Now, it may not be exactly your path, but this is a perfect example of what I call it's avoiding mad-how disease this is, who is the who? Because most of the times we say, "Oh, well, how can I become like that? How can I live that life?" A way better question is, who's already living that life and what are they doing to get there? What did they do to get there? Because if I can imitate what they did to get there, at least at the start that gives me momentum. And that momentum is what gives me the confidence to keep going. So this is a way better technique than, "Oh, how do I do that? No, who's already doing it and what has been their path." So those are two great things.
John Strelecky (01:17:11):
And then another one is like I said, identifying your big five for life. If you think you've got even an inkling of what that might be for you, then start walking that path. And so if you said, "You know what? I really want to ... I think I want to say sail around the world, Nate. I think, I think I want to spend six months sailing in the Caribbean and then I want to take that boat and I want to sail around the world."
John Strelecky (01:17:36):
Okay. That's a very big thing. That is going to freak out your mind like nobody's business because your brain has one solitary goal, which is to keep you alive. And so your brain is going to look at what you did yesterday and say, "Wait a minute, we didn't do any sailing yesterday. We were definitely not in the Caribbean. And we definitely were not sailing around the world by ourselves yesterday. So that's a really horrible, fricking idea. So let's not do that." That's your brain's first reaction to everything that has change-related because it wants to keep you alive and whatever you did yesterday obviously kept you alive. Let's just that again today.
John Strelecky (01:18:10):
So the trick to this is to ease your brain into this new reality and you do that by sampling. And so if someone has a glimpse about this as being one of their big five for life. Here's the trick that I recommend get a magazine or a book about sailing and every night for the first week, just for five to 10 minutes at the end of the night, read that book or flip through that magazine. And here's what's going to happen on an unconscious level. Your brain is going to look at that picture of the person on the sailboat. And it's going to say, "Huh, looks like that's a guy. You're a guy. Maybe this isn't as dangerous as we thought it could be because they look like they're smiling on that sailboat, and we'd like to be smiling."
John Strelecky (01:18:49):
And then they're going to look at ... And again, this is crazy Nate, but this all happens on such an unconscious level. They're going to look at that picture and be like, "Huh, that guy's wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We have worn his shorts and a t- shirt and we have not died because of that." And I know this sounds silly and it probably sounds stupid, but this is truly what happens on an unconscious level as your brain is starting to get comfortable. And so the more you do this on a small scale, the more your brain starts to embrace this. And what happens is you go from being a pull mentality where I have to try and pull my brain to convince it that I want to do this.
John Strelecky (01:19:23):
Your brain is going to start pushing you in this direction because the more you flip through it, the more your internal endocrine system, the chemicals of happiness are flowing through your system as you're flipping through this magazine, your brain will start to connect with that. And it'll start to push you to like, "Why don't we go to that sailboat convention that's going on in the convention center, that'd be kind of cool, right?"
John Strelecky (01:19:43):
And now your intuition is going to kick in because you're going to see the notification about the sailboat convention, where before you wouldn't have even noticed it because it's on your radar. These small little steps start to gain momentum. And the next thing you know, you're on a trajectory that's going to get you on that sailboat for six months down in the Caribbean.
Nathan Hurd (01:20:00):
Yeah. Yeah. You know what? You're describing it so well. I love the way you're describing this. Oftentimes it's fear. It's the fear of the unknown. Just like you said and-
John Strelecky (01:20:12):
Nathan Hurd (01:20:13):
These little micro movements forward are just reducing the fear. It's like micro exposure and it's just reducing the fear, reducing the fear. The other thing that you made me think of is, sometimes these goals or these big five for life as you call them, I love that, are everyday things. So for example, one of the things that I've thought a lot about since I've become a father is, I want my kids someday to look back and say, "My dad was present. Present with me every day." But the thing is that I could easily, and I have imagined all the reasons why there are conflicts and it's hard to make that happen some days and not other days. And really when it comes down to it, if I just focus on how am I going to make sure that at least a few minutes today are spent with pure focus, pure presence and just start to do the thing, then I'm not thinking about what could or couldn't get in the way. And it makes it a lot easier.
John Strelecky (01:21:21):
I call those your nonnegotiables.
Nathan Hurd (01:21:23):
Okay. All right.
John Strelecky (01:21:25):
And so a perfect example of that at when my daughter was two, I realized, "Holy cow, this kid has grown up so flipping fast." It's amazing, at only two years and she's already that big, right? And so I decided that I wanted to have this type of bond that you're talking about. I wanted her to have great memories of our time together and we had done a lot of traveling. I think she had already been in a few countries at that point, but I wanted to create something special. And so I started a tradition called adventure days. And so this was, I would pack the backpack. I would pack the diapers. I would pack the snacks and I'd pack the stroller and off we would go on an adventure day, just daddy and daughter. This would give my wife a break. This would give my daughter and I some quality time together.
John Strelecky (01:22:10):
And we literally would go to every park, every zoo, everything that was within a one-and-half-hour drive of our house and just spend time together. And at the start when they're two, literally that can consist of finding a playground that they've never been at before. And you literally spend three hours in the playground playing ice cream store with the wood chips. So it's not like you're doing something that in the big scale of things, the rest of the world would be like, "Wow, look at that contribution to society right there." But it was just time, and so we did this and we did this and we did this. And Nate, there were a thousand reasons at that point in my career where another interview could have led to this and oh, this trajectory, if you just spend a whole day, I mean, think about it's a whole day of the week, right?
John Strelecky (01:22:58):
If you spend that whole day working on furthering the career, furthering the awareness of your books, it could mean this. It could mean this, right? There are all kinds of reasons why that made more sense. And of course, then culturally, well, John, if you do that, then of course it'll give you even more money. And if you have more money, think of the things that you can give to her. She can go to Harvard if she's smart enough, she can go do this. It's easy to get on that track but at the end of the day, to your point, what I wanted to do was to have a great relationship with my kid.
John Strelecky (01:23:27):
That tradition of adventure days continues on to this day. She's 14 now. We still do adventure days. Nate, I would not trade one of those adventure days for any speaking event around the world. I was asked to speak at an event, I was the next speaker after Barack Obama in front of 15,000 people. Crazy life experience definitely was freaky and I would give that up in a second for any one of those adventure days. No doubt about it. And what's amazing is that when I asked my daughter, can she remember some of the things that she did, that we did on these adventure days ...
John Strelecky (01:24:00):
Can she remember some of the things that we did on these adventure days when she was three, four or five, even six? She doesn't remember anymore. She's 14 now. And that was so ins interesting to me because you don't do it because you're creating the memory. You just do it because in that moment, it was a great moment for you and your kid. And yeah, it doesn't create those little micro moments that further the relationship. A hundred percent. She and I talk now. We have these amazing, beautiful conversations. We go on a lot of hikes now because of COVID. So we do a lot of outdoor stuff for adventure days. We talk about everything. We talk about friends. We talk about growing up. We talk about puberty. We talk about all this stuff. That doesn't happen if I don't have this basis of a long term friendship, connection, relationship, being there for her and demonstrating that, that was important to me.
John Strelecky (01:24:49):
She's heard me tell people on the phone, they're like, "Well, the only day we can do it is Thursday." "I can't do it." "Well, this is a really important interview." "I can't do it. It's Thursday. That's adventure day." And I think that demonstrates to her I don't do it for that reason. That demonstrates her that, you know what? This is important. These times are important. And I can't stress that enough, man. If you have the calling to be the kind of parent that you know in your heart you want to be, do it because the universal conspire to assist that everything else works out okay. It really does.
Nathan Hurd (01:25:23):
You're giving me pins and needles. It's amazing. It's amazing. What you're describing is that she knew from a very early age, even if it was just instinctual, that she was the priority and that you were foregoing other things, as you said. And that kind of trust, it sounds like in your case, has turned into a really beautiful, strong connection and it's definitely something that I aspire for. So that's really helpful. Thank you. I want to be mindful of your time here. So do you have a little bit longer to go?
John Strelecky (01:25:58):
I've got time. As a matter of fact, you with that comment made me think of something which is I think, we talked before about fear and how fear can keep you from being the type of person that you want to be, living the life that you want to live, I firmly believe that there is, as I said earlier, there is something bigger at play. I call it the cosmic algorithm of the universe, that there is a game going on underneath what we can see with our basic senses. There's far more to life than this. And I had a major epiphany in regards to that and I think this is something that could be really beneficial to people. So if you're cool with it, I want to share this concept that the universe is not just listening, but the universe is watching and you can substitute the word, "God," if that fits your belief system. You can substitute the word consciousness if that fits your system.
John Strelecky (01:26:49):
But the universe is watching not just listening. And so if you believe that we are in the presence of a divine and compassionate being, again, universe is God, whatever, and that we have free choice, that we can say to ourselves in our mind, "I wish I was spending more time with my kids. I wish I was being more of an adventurer. I wish I was this" But while we're saying in our mind, the reality that we're demonstrating is that we're sitting at that desk for 14 hours a day.
John Strelecky (01:27:24):
So this benevolent presence is looking down at us and it's saying, "Wow. I don't know what it is that John finds so appealing about what he's doing at that desk in that little room and facing that screen. But look, he's missing out on the chance to go on his kayak and I know he loves that. He's missing out on the chance to play with his daughter and I know he loves that. And he's missing out on this, which he loves all so that he can sit in front of this glowing box of lights in this small room. He must love that more than anything else in the world." I, as a benevolent, compassionate presence want to give him even more of that.
John Strelecky (01:28:09):
This story has played out so many times in my life. And when I look back and connect the dots, I realized that I was thinking that I wanted something different in my life, but I was not demonstrating to the universe that I wanted something different in my life. In the minute I started demonstrating it, it was like all the forces, these walls, these barriers that I saw in front of me now, instead of being barriers, became propelling winds that guided me in the direction that I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to go all because I was willing to take a step, that first step in the unknown into that direction and that has changed my life. That single concept has changed my life a thousand times over.
Nathan Hurd (01:28:52):
Wow. Wow. Wow. Listen to your story. You're in a living example of how that's played out in someone's life and it's amazing to see how that can unfold. I tend to really agree with you, that there's something there that we don't understand, which is why when we look back, it makes sense and we look forward, it doesn't. How do you think about when... A lot of times when people think about purpose, what they might have in mind gets weathered down or worn down by the practicalities of life. "I have kids. I have a family. I have responsibilities. I have this. I have that. I have bills to pay." How do you think about the intersection between profit and sort of responsibilities of that nature and purpose?
John Strelecky (01:29:45):
So this goes to... It ties into something that we talked about before, which is the who versus how. So the way to get beyond those fears and the massive unknown is to find examples of someone who's already doing, seeing and experiencing it. In terms of my first travels, I had never done something like that on that scale before. I came across a little website, which I have no idea is still out there because this is decades ago. It was called chickenbus.com. And I looked at this website. This was even before blogs. So it was just a website with some pictures and the person had written a bit of their story. And it described what they were doing as they were out there backpacking around the world and with pictures. And I thought, "Well, what the heck? If this person can do this, I can do this."
John Strelecky (01:30:29):
So one of the great obstacles is the unknown. One of the great enablers is finding examples of people who are doing it. And whether that is, "I want to enable my kids to do remote learning while we go explore the most spectacular national parks in the United States in an RV," I can tell you right now, there are thousands of families doing that. So any obstacle, any barrier, any fear you have in a one hour conversation can probably be turned round in the opposite direction by having a conversation with one of those people. So find those people and that'll enable you to do it.
John Strelecky (01:31:04):
The beautiful intersection of purpose and profitability is that I think the real currency of life is minutes. It's minutes and memories and museum day moments. I've never thought of it in that phrasing, but those are the three Ms: museum, memories, minutes. That is the real currency because at the end of the day, there's a declining value in how much money you have/ Once you have the basics covered as far as the life that you want to live, it's a law of diminishing returns. One more zero isn't going to really change your life if it doesn't mean that you're getting more minutes. And if there's anything in the pandemic has taught us, it has reminded us of the fragility of life, that it is not guaranteed.
John Strelecky (01:31:46):
Statistically, you get 28900 days. But in order to get that statistical average, it means someone's going to get less. And unfortunately, a lot of times, people don't talk about that. One in six may doesn't even make it to 65. That's crazy. It's crazy that that is not part of the daily conversation because you have this cultural perception, if you're not lucky enough to be exposed to alternatives, that says, "I study hard in school. I go through university. I get a job. I work my way through the system. And then the payoff is going to come when I'm 65 and I can finally retire."
John Strelecky (01:32:25):
Yeah. Well, here's the big news flash. 18% of men never get there. So if you're buying into that as the ultimate payoff, I hope you're one of the 80% because if you're one of the 20%, you just got screwed in a way of that is horrible. So minutes to me are the currency, the ones that matter. So imagine if you could take a look at your life and say, "Okay. Well, this job that I do, what would it look like if I actually was doing a job that was in alignment with my purpose?" And maybe that's a small tweak. Maybe you love the outdoors and you love kayaking, you love backpacking and you're an accountant. Well, can you go be an accountant for REI or for Columbia clothing or for somebody else?
John Strelecky (01:33:10):
Can you take the thing that you do on the weekends and make that part of the way in which you get paid during the week? That's not a huge change. Somebody's an accountant for those companies. Why can't it be you? Can you just slowly bring your purpose into the way that you're spending the majority of your minutes and getting paid? And can you find examples of people doing that so it doesn't seem so intimidating? The more you do that, the more every one of those minutes that you're spending between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM becomes quality minutes, as opposed to just the means to an end. And those are the people that I find to be the most happy, the most fulfilled are the ones who have mastered that.
Nathan Hurd (01:33:50):
I really love that. And one of the things that... I remember hearing a story about when Kennedy had put out the goal that we're going to put a man on the moon and they had went and they were doing a tour of NASA and there was a janitor that was cleaning the floors. And I think the president, Kennedy, asked the janitor, "What do you do?" And his response was, "I helped to put a man on the moon." And I think it strikes me that your ability to, as you describe it, define your purpose for existing, without having some sense of what that is, you can't possibly form the connections into your own life to determine is it or is it not in alignment with that?
Nathan Hurd (01:34:35):
One of the things, the concepts I've heard you talk about, and certainly one of the things that I noted here, was this Velcro wall idea, which it's a kind of a fun thing to imagine, but it seems like this is why, to me, one of the main drivers of taking the time to really stay in touch with what is your purpose and are you living your purpose is when you have that north star, you start to understand how things relate to it. Can you describe the idea of a Velcro wall?
John Strelecky (01:35:10):
Yeah. So this actually comes from a crazy thing. There used to be a late night talk show host used to do this. They had this giant Velcro wall. He would dress in a Velcro suit and jump off a trampoline and stick to the wall. And I remember as a kid thinking that was so ridiculously funny.
John Strelecky (01:35:24):
And then somehow in the process of writing, "The Big Five for Life," book, it dawned on me that this is kind of how it works as it relates to our purpose and our big five for life, that if you know who you are and the direction that you want to go, and again, thinking of that analogy, you know the river you want to be on and you know the ports of call that you want to stop at along the way, that when someone gives you the opportunity to spend those quality minutes of your life on something, you can easily say, "Okay, here's the opportunity. I throw it up against the Velcro wall, which is my purpose and my big five for life. If it sticks, great, because it's related. If it doesn't stick, it falls to the floor. It's an easy no.
John Strelecky (01:36:04):
And to me, this is one of the greatest ways to alleviate stress and anxiety in our lives because when we have that certainty about the things that we want to have in our life, the memories we want to create, the moments that we want to experience, then when someone offers us the opportunity to spend our time doing something else, it's pretty darn easy to say, "That's not going to stick to my Velcro wall. That's a no for me."
John Strelecky (01:36:25):
And without guilt, without feeling uncertainty about, "Is this the right thing to do? Not the right thing to do?" it's pretty darn easy. And this is actually something I think about as a parent all the time because I see the stress that kids carry as they're going through school, as they're wondering about what career they should choose, what college degree they should study. This, to me, is the perfect example of the Velcro wall. Well, is it the kind of thing that's going to make you excited every Monday morning when you wake up to get out of bed? Because if you don't like studying what you're study in school, work is going to be far worse because work is like 40 years of that and it's a lot more time every day. So if you can help a young person understand that, that it's about allowing yourself to choose this destiny, choose this path and then treat these choices as Velcro walls and either sticks or doesn't, it makes life so easy. It makes life so much less stressful.
Nathan Hurd (01:37:15):
So living the life you've lived and achieving what you have at this stage, how would you define wealth?
John Strelecky (01:37:22):
Definitely in the minutes category minutes. How many minutes a day do I spend living in alignment with my purpose and fulfilling my big five for life? A hundred percent.
Nathan Hurd (01:37:34):
So what do you envision next, John? What's what's your next chapter? What are you going to do once your daughter heads out? Do you have any sense of what you'd still like to achieve?
John Strelecky (01:37:45):
Yeah. So it's really interesting. I talk in, "The Big Five for Life," book about the ascending life curve, where most people go through life and it's just ups and downs and ups and downs and ups and downs. It's like a wave, but the highs are about the same high. The lows are about the same low. And then as you age, it actually gets worse. Your highs have become lower because you physically can't do the things that you want to do. Maybe mentally, you're not as sharp. This was my perception of the way life worked. This is all you did. You had highs, you had lows about the same.
John Strelecky (01:38:13):
And what I realized as I've had the opportunity to learn these things and grow in this way is that life can actually be much better and that it can be actually an ascending life curve. So it's still ups and downs. I have not found that even when you're in the midst of a hundred percent in line with your purpose, doing exactly what you want to be doing, it's never just all happy and everything works out perfect. Completely the contrary, there's still lows. But what's fascinating is if you can picture that graph, your lows at some point, become higher than what used to be your highs. And it's interesting. It's only sort of when you climb to the next level that you can sort of see what's possible to be out there. So at the moment, I'm working on a film project for, "The Cafe on the Edge of the World". It's a major motion picture.
John Strelecky (01:38:55):
When I first came back from backpacking around the world and I had the story of the cafe flow through me, even when I had the first experience of the very first person saying to me, "This book changed my life," I never ever could have thought that I was going to be working on a movie someday that going to be on the big screen and that I was going to be the one who wrote the screenplay for it. I didn't have that field of vision on it. So I think that as you continue to spend more minutes in alignment with the life that you want to have, you start to get a better picture of what that future could look like. And I'm not saying it's always going to be something bigger. The movie is a bigger thing. Maybe the thing that you discover is that, "I really want to spend more adventure days with my kid or with my partner or going on a hike every day by myself because that makes me feel connected and fulfilled and the rest of that."
John Strelecky (01:39:40):
So I'm not saying it necessarily needs to be something that is bigger. It's just something that is making you even more fulfilled that you couldn't see before. So I have that right now is one of my things that I'm focusing on with the movie project, but there is a huge piece of me, because of this crazy wacky way that my brain works and connecting the dots on things, which wants to do something that is profoundly life changing for a significant portion of the people on the planet on a basic level. So I think the books have the capacity to do that on a life changing level as it relates to the way we think about our existence, but as I've traveled the world and seen, there are people living at the absolute poverty level who by no fault of their own, they dropped out of the womb in a country where economically, they're going to make $ 200 a month if they're lucky and that is a good wage.
John Strelecky (01:40:34):
I dropped out of the womb in a country where $200 a day is nothing. $200 an hour is nothing depending on what your career is. So I didn't do anything to deserve that, Nate. Nothing, zero. It was just a gift given to me and I feel it is part of my obligation to try and make a difference in the lives of people who dropped out of the womb and had it much harder than that. So as a crazy example of that, to give you something very tactical and very specific, I was in a museum one time talking about cool inventions and they were saying that in the mountains of Tibet, if you've ever seen a construction site where they're trying to keep the dust down and there's this plastic screening, it looks almost like a fence, but it's plastic and flex-y and it's almost always orange.
John Strelecky (01:41:25):
So somebody figured out that if you take that type of material and you put it in a fog dense area, like the Tibetan mountains, that the water will collect on this and you can actually structure it in the way that it's almost like a funnel and the water will drain because for some reason, instead of just having it solid plastic, having it be with holes in it like a fence makes it more efficient somehow. And that you can actually gather water from the fog, which can be used. So I saw this in a museum and I had just recently been to Namibia, which is one of the driest places on the planet, and I saw abject poverty there, which could be changed dramatically if there was any source of legitimate drinking water, which could be used for farming, which could be used for washing, which could be for drinking water.
John Strelecky (01:42:10):
Namibia is known as the skeleton coast because there is immense fog every single day along that coastline, and ships crash and they're so stuck in the sand that they leave them there. So they call it the skeleton coast because there's these skeletons of ships there. Nate, this is an untapped resource. Nature is providing a source of water sitting there every single day. Somebody in the mountains has figured out a way to capture this. Nobody is just connecting the dots to make this reality happen. So I want to do something like that where it has this profoundly positive and very large impact on the livelihood of the people who live in these countries, to use my creativity to make a difference in a positive way.
John Strelecky (01:42:51):
I'll tell you one more crazy one just in case somebody is listening who can take this idea and run with this. My mom had a heart condition and she was in the hospital and they said, "It's major surgery. They're literally going to open your chest and they're going to stop your heart." And they're going to turn on your heart and try and hope that it finds a new rhythm. So I was like, "Holy cow. This seems dramatic." She said, "Yes, they can only do this three times. After the third time, they will not do it anymore because it could end your life." So they tried it. They did it. It didn't work. They tried it the second time. They turned the heart back on. It had the same rhythm as before. And she was telling me this story in the hospital.
John Strelecky (01:43:25):
I said, "Mom, how long have you had this?" She said, "I've had this literally since I was a little kid. I would walk up the hills. I would always be the tired kid." I said, "Well, I don't think this makes any sense. They're expecting to turn off your heart, turn it back on and it's going to find a rhythm that it's never heard before. How can that happen?" So I had this crazy idea, Nate. I went to my brother-in-law who is a professional musician. I said, "Can you do me a favor and tape a healthy heartbeat?" And he said, "Yeah." So I taped this healthy heartbeat. I put it on spool and I bought my mom an iPhone and I loaded this audio track on there. I said, "Mom, I want you to listen to this an hour a day every day while you're just laying in bed. Just listen to this healthy heartbeat, healthy heartbeat."
John Strelecky (01:44:00):
And I said, "Before you go into surgery the third time," I said, "I want you to listen to this healthy heartbeat and have them take off the headphones when you're under and then do the surgery." They did this. Nate, when they turned off her heart and they turned it back on, what sound do you think it imitated?
Nathan Hurd (01:44:17):
It was the heartbeat.
John Strelecky (01:44:19):
It was the healthy heartbeat.
Nathan Hurd (01:44:20):
Oh my gosh.
John Strelecky (01:44:22):
So I have these wacky, crazy thoughts about things that can make a difference in the lives of other people and I would love to use that part of my brain to benefit humanity in some way, shape form. I have a crazy one about cancer that I think would be a whole new way to discover a cure for cancer.
Nathan Hurd (01:44:39):
Spoken like someone who really trusts their intuition and has had- [crosstalk 01:44:44] ... doing that. That's what I've heard from you throughout this conversation is just the real benefits and possibilities when you find a way to connect with your intuition, you trust the inner voice that is that's guiding you or whatever's calling you and you follow that path. This whole concept of purpose for life and really distilling, what are the big five things I want to do or see, or experience in my life are profound I think if people connect with them. It's certainly something I'm going to think more about. And it strikes me that no matter what your age is, if you have had a long career, and maybe it turns out it wasn't the best career. You're looking back. You probably didn't have the most fun. It just strikes me that it's never too late to connect with- [crosstalk 01:45:37] ... existing.
John Strelecky (01:45:38):
A hundred percent. Everybody has genius to offer me, whether it's genius to offer themselves, genius to offer others big capacity, small capacity. It doesn't matter. Everybody has genius within them. And if the only thing that person did that you're talking about allowed themselves at that point to spend a year living the life that they wanted to live, logging as many minutes doing whatever their genius was letting it out into the world, imagine how many people would see them and being inspired by that, and they would never even know.
John Strelecky (01:46:11):
But just you know when people glow. you see people who are doing something that they love. And even if you can't articulate it or you never go up to them and have the conversation like, "What is it that makes you so happy?" or you don't tell them, "Thank you because I was inspired by you," it still changes you. It still changes you. So yeah, if you're somebody out there who's thinking it's too late, it is never too late. And if you're thinking that you don't have genius within you, bull shit. Every single person has genius within them and there's a reason that it's in you and there's a reason that it wants to come out.
Nathan Hurd (01:46:41):
Wow. Well, listen, on that note, is there any other wisdom that you have learned in your life that people never ask you about or anything that I didn't ask about? I could keep talking to you for hours and hours and there's so much more we could talk about, but I want to be respectful of your time. So is there anything else that you want to share with the audience?
John Strelecky (01:47:01):
I think we talked about the cosmic algorithm of the universe and that the universe is watching and not just listening. And I would say that taking some of these things that you and I have talked about, including that one, because I think that's a huge one, and just slowly allowing yourself to maybe listen to this podcast again and take a few notes for yourself and just find one or two things that you say, "I can do that. That's not that big of a step in the direction that I want to go," and just allow yourself to do it a little bit at a time, a little bit at a time.
John Strelecky (01:47:36):
Here, I'll actually end with this. This is one of my favorite quotes. This is one of the most life changing things that ever came to me. And again, I think it was such a powerful piece because I did live in that place where I didn't have that confidence. I didn't have that sense that I was destined for something important. I didn't have the sense that I would do anything that significant. And finally, one day what I realized over the years was that every expert started off knowing nothing about what they became an expert in. And I'm talking about Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback that's ever played the game probably. I'm talking about scientists who invented things that have saved millions of lives. I'm talking about anybody who's ever made any level of contribution, where we look at them and we're like, "Wow, that's a hero status."
John Strelecky (01:48:22):
There was a day when they knew nothing about what they became an expert in. So it doesn't matter that you're starting at ground zero if there's something that you desire, something that you want to be smart about, some place that you want to experience, something that you want to grow in. Ten minutes a day, 15 minutes a day and just stay with it and you can be anything, absolutely anything.
Nathan Hurd (01:48:43):
Man, wise words, indeed. Wise words, indeed. Thank you so much, John. Where can people find you? Where can they find you? Where can they follow you if they want to follow your work, hear more from you?
John Strelecky (01:48:55):
Yeah, absolutely. So my books are a hundred percent available on Amazon. So if you heard something that tweaked your interest in one of the elements that you and I talked about, then everything is on Amazon. That's to find me. In terms of staying in touch with me and the things that I talk about and create, if you go to johnstrelecky.com, there's a series of other articles that I've written. When I get inspired by something that isn't sort of big enough that I want to wait until I put it in a book, but I think it's really interesting to put out there, I'll write a piece about it and I'll put it out there on my site. So that's johnstrelecky.com. And then I have social media channels, Instagram and Facebook, where I'll post stuff that catches my interest, something that I think is interesting. I'll repost a piece of content that I see somebody else created that I think is really inspiring. So, yeah. Follow that if that's part of the way in which you live your life. So it's all under John Strelecky.
Nathan Hurd (01:49:45):
John Strelecky on every social platform.
John Strelecky (01:49:49):
Nathan Hurd (01:49:50):
Excellent. John, I can't thank you enough. This has been a real pleasure. I've learned a lot and these insights are timeless. And I think, again, I hope that the people listening can take great inspiration from them and at least pull, as you said, one or two things, even into 10 or 15 minutes of each day goes a heck of a long way over a longer period of time. And thank you so much for your time. It's been a real pleasure. It's been inspiring.
John Strelecky (01:50:18):
Thanks, Nate. And thanks for doing what you do too. I know from our conversations that we had prior to this, that as you're looking at your life and you're thinking, "Where are the contributions I want to make? Where is the genius that I want to add to the world?" that one of the places you're doing it is through this and bringing in people that you think have something interesting to say and facilitating that discussion. So, to me, this is a huge deal because in the same way that you described the NASA experience, every single person who's involved along the way of someone's journey where they get a piece of life wisdom is part of the reason that they got that life wisdom. So if you didn't have the courage to do what you do, which is have the show and follow something that interests you, then anybody who's listening to this that got even a 1% inkling into something that mattered to them, it wouldn't have happened had it not been for you. So I'm grateful that you have that passion for doing what you're doing.